SANTA FE – The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau on behalf of an African-American university student who was reported to Santa Fe police for “being arrogant, because he’s black” by an Allsup’s convenience store employee.
“People have a right to enter stores and other public accommodations without fear that they will be discriminated against or endangered because of the color of their skin,” said Leon Howard, ACLU of New Mexico legal director, in news release.
“What happened to our client is one of many recent incidents where people of color, especially black people, have had the police called on them for simply existing in public spaces. This kind of racist and illegal behavior puts people of color in grave danger, and we will not tolerate it in our communities.”
On the night of Aug. 3, Jordan McDowell, a pre-med student at Xavier University in New Orleans, was visiting Santa Fe in connection with a class trip when he went to the Allsup’s at 650 Cerrillos Rd., near his hotel.
McDowell later shared a cellphone video he made with KRQE-TV that attracted national media attention. It shows the female Allsup’s employee presumably on the phone with the regional dispatch center after making a 911 call.
“And I want him out of the store right now,” she said. “Because he’s being arrogant, because he’s black.” A police dispatch log indicates the employee said there was a kid at the store who is black and she wanted him removed. It also says that he was being a “jerk.”
A police recording shows that she later told a police officer whom McDowell flagged down outside the store, “He’s not the only one that I do that (expletive) to, because you see all the natives that walk in here, the drunks or whoever.”
“To date, no representative of Allsup’s has offered an apology for their employee’s racist behavior towards McDowell,” the ACLU said in its Tuesday release. Allsup’s had no comment on the incident in August and no one from its corporate headquarters returned a call Tuesday.
“It’s frightening that, for people who look like me, a casual stop for snacks can end up with a confrontation with police,” said McDowell in the news release. “It’s a terrible feeling to face discrimination like that. No person should ever be turned away or have the police called on them simply because of the color of their skin.” Seeking a finding from the Human Rights Bureau is often a predecessor to civil ligiation.
Santa Fe police said in August that they did not dispatch an officer after the Allsup’s worker called 911 because no crime had been committed and there was no threat. When McDowell got the attention of an officer who was passing by, the resulting encounter was recorded by the officer.
McDowell told the officer he was in the store and bought some candy. But before he did, he said, the Allsup’s employee told him, “Hey, you’re looking sketchy, you’re looking sketchy. You’re picking stuff up, you’re putting stuff down; you’re looking sketchy” and told him to leave.